With the curtain raised on the 371FG in the ETO, Frisky was busy earning his keep, flying and fighting against the forces of Nazi Germany. It was inevitable this clash of arms would produce casualties.
Thursday, April 20, 1944, was a day of sacrifice for Frisky, though most in the group would be unaware of that fact for some weeks to come. The day began as any other for Airmen serving their country in a time of war, but ended somberly.
During the day of 20 April, Capt. Elkin L. Franklin, Jr., the Operations Officer of the 404th Fighter Squadron, was on detached service with the 57th Fighter Group’s 64th Fighter Squadron at Alto Airfield on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. He was sent there over two weeks before, along with Capt. Edmond A. Goolsbee, Operations Officer of the 406th Fighter Squadron, in order to gain some fighter bomber combat experience to bring back to his squadron and to the 371st Fighter Group in England.
Capt. Franklin took off from Corsica in Republic P-47D-16-RE Thunderbolt serial number 42-76011 on a dive-bombing mission against railroad cars and facilities near Arezzo, Italy, which is north of Rome and southeast of Florence. The distance was such that external fuel tanks were required on the Thunderbolts. This mission occurred during the time of Operation Strangle, when Allied air forces in the Mediterranean theater of operations conducted a series of sustained interdiction attacks to impede the flow of German forces and logistics in central Italy. (See film clip of 57FG operations below)
The 64th Fighter Squadron reached the Sinalunga area south of Arezzo and bombed the railroad target. After bombing, the Thunderbolts looked for a target of opportunity to strafe and found one to the south at the railroad marshaling yard at Abbadia (just west of Lago Trasimeno). When Capt. Franklin’s plane neared the end of its strafing run, enemy fire hit his belly tank which exploded. Franklin’s plane rolled over and crashed into the ground in flames at 0945 local time, which was witnessed by three other squadron members, who believed he was killed in the crash. His was the first combat loss of a member of the 371st Fighter Group in World War II. He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia.
So on this Easter Sunday, 2014, 70 years after the first loss of any 371FG personnel in combat, let us remember Elkin Franklin’s service and sacrifice for our freedom. He was the first member of Frisky’s team to be killed in action, but sadly, he wasn’t to be the last. The upcoming Memorial Day will be a great opportunity for us to remember and honor them all.
Missing Air Crew Report for Elkin L. Franklin, at: http://www.57thfightergroup.org/macr/4517.html
Operation Strangle, entry on Wikipedia at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Strangle
P-47 Database, 42-&XXX serial numbers, at: http://p-47.database.pagesperso-orange.fr/Database/42-7xxxx.htm
Find a grave entry for Elkin Leland Franklin, Jr., at http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=73025984
P-47 aircraft of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) 57th Fighter Group at Alto Airbase, Corsica, during World War II, at: http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675051896_P-47-aircraft_Alto-Air-Base_pilot-examines-flak-hole-in-wing_Red-Cross-coffee-truck_Lady-Jane